Dear Matt: How can I prepare for a phone interview? I've had a couple and never have obtained an interview. What is the purpose of the phone interview and how can I "wow" the person on the other line so I can land the face-to-face interview?

Matt: Telephone interviews have become a common tool for narrowing down the candidate pool, especially when hiring managers have a large number of applicants who look similar on paper, says Jim Kwapick, district president of Robert Half International (

Kwapick offers this advice:

Use a land line. It's more professional to use a land line. It demonstrates that you've made an effort to carve out a special time and place for the call, and you'll have a better connection. If you have to use a cell phone, make sure you're in an area with strong reception.

Observe quiet. Find a quiet place free of background noise. Remove all distractions - barking dogs, the sound of kids playing, ringing cell phones, door bells, etc.

Have your résumé and job description at hand. Hiring managers typically walk through your résumé, and this will allow you to follow along and highlight key skills that you have that are also listed in the job description.

Speak clearly. Talk directly into your phone or headset and let him or her finish speaking before you respond. Take a breath before responding to questions to ensure you're not rushing yourself.

Smile. This may sound like odd advice, but if you smile when you respond, you'll come across as more energetic and positive. Some people even suggest putting a mirror in front of you to help you remember to smile and be engaging. Tone and the inflection in your voice are extremely important in a phone interview.

Ask questions. Asking questions can show you've done your homework and want the job. Consider the following questions: What's the corporate culture like? What qualities do you look for in top candidates? How can new hires hit the ground running? When did you start working for the firm? How is the company positioning itself for growth over the short- and long-term? What is this department's role in these plans?

Ask for the job. At the end of the phone interview, restate your interest in the position and ask for the job (or face-to-face interview). Ask about next steps and when they plan to make a decision. This lets the hiring manager know you are interested, allows you to get a lay of the land and know when to plan your follow-up.

Follow up. Send a note thanking the interviewer, reiterating your key points.

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